Collison to Undergo Surgery
Nick Collison’s rookie season is over before it ever began.

Collison will be unable to use what he learned while playing for Team USA this season.
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Seattle SuperSonics General Manager Rick Sund announced this morning that Collison, the team’s 12th pick out of Kansas in this June’s draft, will undergo surgery on both shoulders to repair them and prevent a recurrence of the sublexation which occurred earlier this week. Sund, Collison and team orthopedic surgeon Dr. Richard Zorn participated in a press conference this morning to announce the decision and allow Collison to discuss his injury with the media for the first time.

“It was Sunday. I went up for a rebound and got hit down and went up at the same time. It was an awkward movement, and I felt the shoulder basically pop out for a second and pop back in. It was really sore; I decided to shake it off and calm down, pretty much, within a few minutes and kept playing,” Collison explained. “During the second practice Sunday, I went for a loose ball. I reached down and it popped out again with no contact. I knew something was probably a little wrong. We got treatment with (trainer) Mike (Shimensky). I went again on Monday. Monday was fine. Then Tuesday morning, I reached for a ball again and it slipped out again. Then we decided to get the MRI done.”

In all, three doctors – Zorn, Seattle shoulder specialist Dr. Richard Kirby and New York specialist Dr. Russell Warren, considered one of the foremost experts on shoulder injuries – examined Collison’s MRIs and x-rays. All three concurred that Collison should have surgery – not only on his left shoulder, where the recent sublexation occurred, but also on his right shoulder, which was also found to be weakened.

“We see some of the same findings that he has in the left shoulder,” Dr. Zorn explained. The left shoulder will be operated on first, with no time yet scheduled, followed a couple of months later by the right shoulder. Dr. Warren will perform both surgeries.

Recovery time for Collison is expected to be approximately six months from the second surgery until he can get back on the court. That timetable would sideline Collison for the entire 2003-04 season, but he could be back on the court as soon as next summer. “He could be back maybe by the summer league, certainly by next season,” Dr. Zorn said. A full recovery is expected, with Dr. Zorn noting that 95 percent of surgeries result in no recurrence. Collison’s range of motion will be affected, but that shouldn’t play much of a factor when he gets back on the court.

“What’s happened is that the tissues in the front of his shoulder have been stripped from the bony attachment, and that’s the primary problem,” Dr. Zorn said. “There’s also some injury to the bone. What you do is re-attach the tissues in the front of surgery, forming a ‘sling’, if you will, for the (bone) so it doesn’t pop out. Right now there’s a laxity, a tendency for it to go out. If it goes too far, it goes beyond the cup portion of the joint and dislocates. That’s what happened last week.”

Recent reports in the local media have attempted to create a link between Collison’s most recent injury and previous incidents involving his shoulder, but Collison himself downplayed this notion.

“I’ve strained my shoulders before, slipped, whatever, but it’s totally different than here,” he said. “Here was a definite out and in, which is why I didn’t really say much, because I have strained them before in the past, and doctors have always told me they’re like a sprained ankle – there’s nothing structurally wrong, you just have to strengthen them, it’s something that just happens, like a lot of injuries.”

Collison added that he had undergone an MRI on his shoulder while at Kansas, during his junior season, which revealed no damage. Pre-draft check-ups also found no damage.

Everything looked normal at media day, but Collison had already suffered the injury which ended his season.
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Dr. Zorn also dismissed any concern that Collison was particularly susceptible to shoulder injuries, saying the injury was the result of normal basketball contact.

“I don’t think he has any predisposition,” Dr. Zorn said. “I think he’s a guy who bangs hard when he plays basketball.

"I don’t think he has any structural abnormality or anatomical variant that makes him more susceptible. I think it’s just the trauma.”

Collison appeared glum throughout the press conference. “It’s very disappointing,” he said when asked how he was feeling. “I’ve wanted to play in the league since I was eight or nine. I thought I was there, and now I can’t play (this season). I realize there are worse situations you can be in, but I’m definitely disappointed. It will be tough because, talking with (video coordinator) Walt (Rock) last night, we were talking about how we’re almost addicted to the game. To have to sit for a year will be very tough. I’ve never had to sit out very long.” Collison later joked, “I tried to find someone who said I could play, but I couldn’t.”

Sonics Head Coach Nate McMillan echoed Collison’s sentiment.

“I’m really disappointed,” he said. “This is what this game is about, even during the course of this season. There are highs and the lows that come with this game and we're so excited about having an opportunity to develop young guys like Luke (Ridnour) and Nick and (Vladimir) Radmanovic. You think about that all summer long - what you want to do and how you want to do it. An injury such as this to a young player that we have high hopes for, that will miss the season, is very disappointing. I’m disappointed since I don’t have that opportunity this season and also in the sense that he’s a good guy and was ready to come in and play.”

Without Collison, the Sonics are left with the same pair of players they platooned at power forward last season: Reggie Evans, who started 60 games, and Radmanovic, who is capable of playing either forward position. McMillan said after practice he believes that they can man the position, as they did last year.

“We have to go with our young guys and give them an opportunity to play,” he said. “Of course I would much rather have Nick, Vlade and Reggie Evans, but these things happen and sometimes you can’t do anything about them. You have to adjust and go forward, which is what we’ll do.”

McMillan would not term either player a favorite to win the position at this point in training camp, noting that their ability to complement the skills of whoever wins the starting center position, or vice-versa, is important.

When asked during the press conference, Sund said he did not feel the Sonics needed to add another player after re-signing Evans a week ago, but he did indicate that the Sonics would be watching the waiver wire in case a useful addition is released by another team.

Sund would not discuss the possibility of petitioning the league for a medical exception, but such a move would not really do the Sonics much good. The team still has part of its median exception available, which would exceed the amount they could offer a free agent using a medical exception.